The Nation‘s Adam Shatz remembers Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir, who was killed in a bomb attack on June 3rd. Kassir wrote for Al-Nahar, and was a staunch member of the anti-Syrian opposition.
In Lebanon he has ascended, if that is the word, to the status of “the martyr Kassir.” Yet Kassir was an unusual kind of martyr in today’s Middle East, a staunch secularist who wanted to live in a free country, not to die for one. In a region driven increasingly by a politics of death and sacrifice, he stood for a vision of peaceful reform, progressive social change and democratic secularism–the values of any left worthy of the name. The day after Kassir’s murder, hundreds of journalists poured into Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut to observe an hour of silence. Many raised black pens to the sky, visually evoking the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword. It is not. But to wield the pen rather than the sword in the face of mortal threats requires uncommon courage. This Samir Kassir had in abundance. His death is a terrible blow not only to his family and friends but to Lebanon, Syria and the cause of Arab freedom.